Will the Replanting of Napa Vineyards Bring Diversity?

4As Napa grape growers replace their vines, will the composition of varieties planted in the region change to accommodate the recent broadening of tastes? This is the really interesting question that one can take away from a recent article in Wines and Vines that reports a majority of Napa growers will be replacing their vines by 2017.

The cause of the replanting rush is Pierce’s Disease:

“Pressure from grapevine red blotch-associated virus and Pierce’s disease is one of the main reasons most Napa County wine grape growers plan to redevelop vineyards by 2017.”

The story by Andrew Adams goes on to discuss various implications of the coming replanting from the growing difficulty in finding a reliable crew of vineyard workers to incorporating planting strategies to take advantage of new technology.

But not discussed in the story is if the replanting of Napa’s vineyards will result in a broadening of the varieties grown in the Valley. As I mentioned in a recent post, forty percent of Napa’s vineyards are dedicated to Cabernet and the region’s wines have gained their international reputation on the back of Cabernet. Plus, Cabernet brings in a higher average price per bottle not only in Napa but generally, no matter where it is planted. This is an important consideration when you take into account the hugely inflated price of land in Napa.

Still, In the United States there is a genuine and growing interest in wines made from varieties other than Cabernet and Chardonnay. It will be interesting to look at the composition of Napa Valley vineyards in ten years or so and see if the growers have addressed this interest in “other”. It will be a brave soul that does go from cultivating Cabernet to, say, Syrah or Mourvedre or Carignane or Tannat. The financial incentive is to stay with Cab. But, there are mavericks in Napa that already plant a wide diversity of grapes. We’ll see.


2 Responses

  1. Tom Natan - November 16, 2016

    Back in the mid-70s, Vincent Price was a spokesman for the California wine industry. He made a spoken word record called Wine Is Elegance, discussing the wide variety of wines made and grapes grown in the state. Some of them are making their way back now. It seems like this is a good opportunity to do more.

  2. Mike - November 28, 2016

    Personally I’m hoping we see more alicante, carignan, tempranillo and perhaps some white Rhone varietals planted in the coming years (decades).

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